A Decade Of Kenya Nights: The Journey
Kenya Nights (KN) started as an event photography agency on 24th November 2009, the day founder and head honcho of KN, Rizwan Ibrahim (Riz), turned 20, and ventured out to take pictures of the dopest events popping up in Nairobi. He created a Facebook page called “Kenya Nights – Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Places” where he uploaded pictures and started gaining traction. As the world started turning digital, the page grew with it.
After having shot 300+ events in 3 years like:
Blankets & Wine
Brew Bistro’s Launch Party on Ngong Road with Eat Out Kenya
Nokia Underground Rev Party
Churchill’s Kids Festival
Rift Valley Festival
Jameson Live Party
MTV Africa All Stars
Ten Cities Warehouse Party
Crown Paints | Armourcoat Launch
Riz decided to throw a party to celebrate three years of KN. He invited Berlin based techno deejay Nadja Lind. The event was a success and this was the beginning of the second phase of Kenya Nights – EVENTS. Here is when I, Sadia Ibrahim (Riz’s Sister - then radio personality on XFM and East FM), joined KN as the second half, working behind the scenes as Head of PR, Marketing and Artist Management.
Just as the events kicked off, Riz created the third element of the brand – Kenya Nights Podcast.
2013 - Riz came up with themes for his events – Frisky Disco, Groove Cube, All White Party, Selekta Sessions, Afro Social, Kenya Nights Block Party - Where Mirella Kroes from Berlin, Culoe De Song from South Africa and Jason Bova from the US played at. And then the first Kenya Nights New Year’s Eve party launched in Kilifi (now known as Kilifi New Year).
2014 was a big year for KN. On 7th February, we caught Nairobi off guard by hosting the legendary DIPLO for the first time in Kenya. He came along with Walshy Fire as the MC, who’s part of Major Lazer (ML). But, ML hadn’t made waves in Kenya until that day with Bumaye! We had less than 2 weeks to promote the event! Back then, MOOKH didn’t exist, so we sold physical tickets and had our vendors around Nairobi. I remember driving around the city dropping off tickets and walking around with a booklet just in case someone wanted to buy a ticket there and then!
I picked up Diplo and his team from the airport and took them to Tribe Hotel (our Hospitality Partner since day one). Freshened up then took them to the venue, Tree House, and it was packed to the brim!
Now, Tree House, is basically made of wood, and a few beams of metal here and there. When anyone went down to use the washroom, they noticed the ceiling was caving in. The dance-floor was so packed - Walshy loves making everyone jump, that floor was gonna cave in.
We stopped their set 3 times to ask people to move out of the middle, until security had to intervine, move people to make a square in the middle with barriers before the floor collapses. Every time Diplo’s been back since, he talks about that being one of the best and craziest shows he’s ever played at.
This was the tipping point for KN and I want to say the rest is history, but it’s not because more epicness happened after!
In 2014, Kenya Nights hosted And.ID // Mobilee (Germany), M.A.N.D.Y. // Get Physical (Germany), Black Coffee (South Africa) in Partnership with ElectrAfrique, Cian Finn (Ireland/Reggae) and Subb-an (UK) for the 5th Anniversary Party.
As Riz continued to shoot events for other organizers, he continued throwing KN Events and building the podcast. While the brand name was growing, Riz changed the main Facebook page name from Kenya Nights – Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Places to just “Kenya Nights”.
Same year, Kenya Nights was voted as the Number 1 Facebook Page in Kenya by TravelStart - South Africa.
2015 - KN hosted Lee Foss (US) and hosted a workshop for musicians at PAWA254 who were interested in Foss’s techniques. Riz launched GET REAL as the hip hop side of KN. And we brought back Culoe De Song for the 6th Anniversary party.
31st December 2015, Kenya Nights NYE was at a cool new unknown location, that hadn’t been launched yet. It felt like a secret party, but people turned up, because… Kenya Nights ;) and this place was The Alchemist Bar.
2016 - We launched Kenya Nights LIVE and we had SARABI as our first live act. All Kenya Nights Events in 2016 were held at The Alchemist Bar. As international guests we had Scarlett Etienne, Wankelmut and Huxley. And at our LIVE events we had Mi Casa in partnership with Motion Image and Sound & The Alchemist Bar, later in the year Makadem and Idd Aziz.
2017 - We came back with a bang hosting Russ Yellop (UK) at Alchemist, Diplo with Walshy Fire at Carnivore, which was again, a turnaround for the music scene in Kenya. The production was out of this world! It was so good, that Diplo recorded his set and released it as well.
We then hosted Felix Buxton of Basement Jaxx (UK), known for their famous song “Where’s Your Head At”, Mi Casa again, Seth Schwarz in September. Live event with Maia Von Lekow, then moved around in Kampala and Diani and our 8th Anniversary with Subb-an (UK).
2018 – We started the year with a live event where Susana Owiyo headlined. Nick Curly (Germany) came through in March, then Stereo Express with Seth Schwarz after releasing their single together “Kadanza”, which, by the way, the video was shot in Zanzibar! Raoul K and Auntie Flo in May. In collaboration with Temple Management, under GET REAL, we hosted Young Paris. Aero Manyelo from South Africa and in October, back at Carnivore but this time as Major Lazer Sound System - We did Nairobi and Diani and both were absolutely bonkers!
Our 9th Anniversary Party was the beginning of the road to 10 Years of Kenya Nights. Prince Kaybee was our headlining act and yes, he IS a “Club Controller”! We re-opened Tree House just for that night. Brought in our own bar, cleaned the place up and it felt like we were back in 2012 when we threw our first ever event on 24th November 2012.
After 3 years of throwing epic NYE parties at The Alchemist Bar, we moved to J’s as we needed a bigger venue. And so, our NYE party coming into 2019 was at J’s as is this year!
2019 - Started with Marco Bailey (Germany) at MUZE Club in February. Then Archie Hamilton (UK) with a double whammy – Your ticket could get you in to the pool party at Tribe Hotel during the day and then we relocated to MUZE for the club party. We went to Diani for Easter and threw a dope Full Moon Beach Party. And then the road to 10 Years of Kenya Nights began.
By hosting Walshy Fire in June, it was a teaser for hosting Major Lazer Sound System again in December. And hence we kept saying we are now leading up towards the buildup. We then had Jeremy Olander (Sweden), Rodriquez Jr (France), Djeff (Angola/Portugal) and now the final two events of the year are here.
10 Years of Kenya Nights with Major Lazer and THEMBA and NYE 2020 at J’s. We’re super excited and looking forward to celebrating what we’ve created.
We took a bow as Kenya Nights Events and will be launching a new much needed festival in 2020 + a couple of dope music brands under the Kenya Nights umbrella.
2020 will be packed with new things and we look forward to creating that with everyone.